28 Jun 2011

Penguin's stomach may be near to functioning again, says doctor

6:01 am on 28 June 2011

An expert in the human digestive system has been drafted in to help an ailing emperor penguin with a stomach full of sand and sticks.

The penguin, called Happy Feet by zoo staff, has undergone a third, and possibly final, operation to remove sticks and sand it's eaten in a misguided attempt to keep itself cool.


The head of gastroenterology at Wellington Hospital, Dr John Wyeth, peformed an endoscopy, inserting a tiny camera and lasso into the penguin's stomach to remove the material.

"We've probably emptied about half the stomach and, hopefully, with a bit of luck the stomach will now start functioning of its own accord.

"We're talking about giving it some drugs to stimulate the stomach to empty and if that's the case we won't need to have another operation," he said.

The bird was taken to the zoo's hospital on Friday from Peka Peka beach on Kapiti Coast, where it had been spotted a few days earlier.

It had become increasingly distressed and had been eating sticks and sand, in place of the snow it would normally consume, in a misguided attempt to keep itself cool.

On Monday, vets were determining how much sand and driftwood was in the bird's stomach by taking an x-ray and using a small camera which was being inserted into its stomach.

A gastroenterologist from Wellington Hospital was helping with the treatment.

A crowd of about 100 people were watching the procedure on Monday.

The zoo's manager of veterinary science, Lisa Argilla, says she's confident the penguin will survive the procedure.